A is for Atom
- Publication date
- Public Domain
- Digitizing sponsor
- General Electric Company
Presents in lay terms what an atom is, how energy is released from certain kinds of atoms, the peace-time uses of atomic energy and the by-products of nuclear fission.
Ken Smith sez: This animated short is one of the better "benevolent atom" films released in the '50s. The elements are depicted as humans with giant molecule heads; radioactive elements are shown dancing frantically. Atomic Energy is a giant glowing outline man. Great mid-'50s free-form art backgrounds. Best scenes: 1) Dancing molecules bouncing into each other in "Element Town" and 2) the majestic, ethereal atomic giant seen straddling the Earth at the end of the film.
Although the "Atoms for Peace" campaign was formally launched in 1957, corporate America began to promote peaceful uses of atomic energy as early as the first few months after Hiroshima. A Is For Atom, an artifact of this effort, takes this highly loaded and threatening issue straight to the public in an attempt to "humanize" the figure of the atom.
A Is For Atom speaks of five atomic "giants" which "man has released from within the atom's heart": the warrior and destroyer, the farmer, the healer, the engineer and the research worker. Each is pictured as a majestic, shimmering outline figure towering over the earth. "But all are within man's power Ñ subject to his command," says the narrator reassuringly, and our future depends "on man's wisdom, on his firmness in the use of that power."
General Electric, a long-time manufacturer of electric appliances, power generation plants, and nuclear weapon components, is staking a claim here, asserting their interest in managing and exploiting this new and bewildering technology. Its pitch: this is powerful, frightening, near-apocalyptic technology, but managed with firmness, it can be profitable and promising. This "Trust us with the control of technology, and we'll give you progress without end" pitch resembles what we've seen in films like General Motors' To New Horizons (on the Ephemeral Films disc). But the automobile, of course, wasn't a weapon of mass destruction.
In its first two years of release, A Is For Atom was seen by over seven million people in this version and a shortened ten-minute theatrical cut. In 1953 it won first prizes in both the Columbus (Ohio) and Turin (Italy) Film Festivals, the Freedoms Foundation Award, an "oscar" from the Cleveland Film Festival, and a Merit Award from Scholastic Teacher. In 1954 it won first prize in the Stamford Film Festival, a Golden Reel Award from the American Film Assembly, and a second Grand Award from the Venice Film Festival. The film was remade in the mid-sixties and is still available for rental.
Like other John Sutherland films, A Is For Atom presents a portentious message in a visually delightful and often self-deprecating manner. "Element Town" and its quirky inhabitants, including hyped-up Radium and somnolent Lead, is unforgettable, and the animated chain reaction manages to avoid any suggestion of nuclear fear.
ANIMATION ATOMIC ENERGY ELECTRICITY FUTURISM PHYSICS ELEMENTS NUCLEAR POWER GENERATION FANTASY SURREALISM ELEMENTS RADIOACTIVITY ISOTOPES PERSONIFICATION CITIES GIANTS
- Closed captioning
- Run time
Just wondering if there any way of proving that this video is public domain and isn't owned by somebody else?
Subject: Classy Educational Film
"A is for Atom" is, along with the Bell Telephone Science Series, considered to be one of the best educational science films ever produced. The 1952 version is in public domain and easy to find. The improved 1964 version is more difficult to obtain.
In 14 short minutes the film is able to explain the structure of an atom, the function and layout of the Periodic Chart of the elements, as well as industrial and medical applications of nuclear science. It manages to do so in a highly enticing manner.
Those who call it "propaganda" do so because they call anything propaganda that goes against their beliefs. The film is simply a science film that is representing a specific facet of energy production and application, nothing more nothing less. It is a high quality film, that does not suffer the overt political bias that many of today's so-called "educational" productions do.
Subject: A is for Atom
Subject: Tranlsate to Portuguese
Subject: the best video i have seen
Subject: This in Standard Def (720 by 480)
Subject: An informative ACCURATE explaination
and byproducts of nuclear research....
but of course, it HAS to be propaganda
because it came from the United States
and the evil men who developed the technology.
Other reviewers take heed,
if you get inoperable Cancer, make sure
you refuse radiation treatment because many
of the techniques, research and materials
developed to treat Cancer with radiation
came from the same evil propaganda-
producing companies - General Electric
Subject: Enjoyable propaganda film!
Subject: A is for Apathy
While surprisingly informative for propaganda (iodine 131, take a note), its declaration of the UN being "Men of Good Will" is disturbingly hilarious. Laden with double-speak ("War for Survival") this globalist-animation makes the "New World of the Atomic Age" look pretty frightening. I mean those gouache matte paintings are gorgeous...but electric giants, mad german scientists and hypnotic kings? I see them in my nitemares. Try bringing in the NWO with puppies and daisies, fools.
Subject: The stylin' Atomic Age!
This film is great. The depth is astonishing. The manages to touch on subjects like binding energy, strong nuclear force and Einstein's mass-energy principle - not in detail obviously, but it's all here...
Despite this though, it still remains really clear in the way it presents concepts.
I wish this was used as a teaching video when I was at school!
Subject: Space Age Design
Subject: Men of science
Subject: Men of science
Subject: Most informative!
Subject: A is for Atom
Subject: The Atomic Age Beckons
General Electric promises a flurry of uses for atomic energy, from power to our cities to isotopes for medical research. At this point, commercial nuclear power plants had yet to be built, and nuclear-powered trains, planes, ships were wonders on the horizon. Just as unstable elements are transmuted to lead, the nightmarish monster of atomic war is transmuted into a gentle giant of industrial progress.
A is for Atom leaves us with the message "On man's wisdom.. on the firmness of the use of his power depends the future of his children." General Electric meant that only the use of atomic energy would allow mankind to fulfill its potential. In retrospect, the lack of wisdom of GE and government scientists and engineers, who oversold the potential for atomic energy, downplayed its dangers, and rationalized the deaths of thousands of workers and civilians from radiation make the "atomic age" nothing but a relic of 1950s thought.
Subject: Spot the Propaganda
Technically, the film is fairly accurate, though the strong nuclear force is presented as glue. The film's graphic style is very much in line with the 50's.
Subject: A Is for Atom
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ****. Weirdness: ****. Historical Interest: *****. Overall Rating: *****.
Subject: The Atomic Age
Subject: B is for Blinding!
Subject: very enjoyable
Uploaded by [deleted account] on